I met my friend at our usual lunch place, where we go about once a month. We love the food, healthy and attractively plated, with a cup of hot tea or a glass of wine. The decor is contemporary and classy, the booths are spacious, and it’s quiet for talking. I planned on buying lunch to celebrate her recent birthday.
After we finished eating, the server, a lovely young woman who had waited on us in the past, handed me the check. The total was $41.22, so I took three twenty-dollar bills from my wallet and put them inside the receipt holder. My friend and I continued our conversation, talking as much as possible until she had to return to work.
Soon the server returned, handed the holder back to me and thanked us for coming in. As she walked away, I opened it to find one five-dollar bill and three ones. First, I noticed that the coins from my change were missing. This seems to be a trend in some restaurants; the server rounds up the total to avoid handling coins, or maybe this practice adds up to a little extra cash after a long day of work. This annoys my husband, who insists the server bring ALL of his change, but I choose to let it go. However, this time I was also missing ten dollars. I know I gave the server three twenties because I’d just completed a project for a group of friends, and everyone paid me back with twenty-dollar bills. I thought maybe I’d been distracted by the conversation with my friend, so I added it up again just to make sure.
Now our server was nowhere to be seen. We continued chatting while I watched for her to reappear. Finally, she came back to our area and was checking other tables, not looking our way. I called out “excuse me” to get her attention and waved her over to our booth.
“I’m sure I put three twenty-dollar bills in here…” I began explaining, but she cut me off and said, “Oh, right, yes, I have it right here.” A ten dollar bill was in another receipt holder in her hand, which she quickly took out and handed to me.
I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and up to this point she had been professional and attentive. But this seemed fishy to me. Did she hope I wouldn’t notice? Why was the ten dollars in a separate holder in her hand? And why didn’t she apologize for her mistake?
I thought about reporting this to the restaurant manager but decided not to bother. I can’t be sure she didn’t just make forget, and since I eventually received the correct change (minus the coins), I chose not to say anything further.
A couple of days later I went to a chain convenience store to get a variety of items, and especially to use a $10-off-$40 coupon that would expire the next day. Once inside, I found a shopping cart, laid my coupons in the basket so I wouldn’t forget to use them, and walked around the store, finding the items on my list plus a few small things to reach my $40 goal. But when I went to pay and put my purchases on the counter, my little stack of coupons was gone. The man running the cash register could tell I was looking for something, so I said, “Gosh darn it, looks like I lost my coupons!” He said he’d set my items aside if I wanted to go look for them.
I retraced my steps around the store several times, sure that those small white papers would be easy to spot, but with no luck. I walked back to the register shaking my head, and said “It’s okay, it’s my own fault.” He felt sorry for me and suggested that if I put the store app on my phone, the coupons will go directly into my account and I won’t need to carry them to the store. He used my phone number to pull up my account and added my email address right then. As we talked, he looked through my bag for a couple of items that equaled close to $10 and refunded them for me. What a surprise! I thanked him for his kindness and excellent customer service.
These two episodes were both about ten dollars, which doesn’t seem like much these days. It’s the price of a lipstick or event parking or fancy coffee with a scone. The point is that the attitude of the people involved changed the way I felt about what happened. No price can be put on the value of kindness and respect. Will I return to that restaurant? Maybe not, and if I do, I’ll always remember what happened. Will I shop again at that convenience store again? You bet!